By Marino Saito
Northwest Asian Weekly
About six years have passed since the first Chinese Gate was built in the Chinatown-International District in Seattle. The Historic China Gate Foundation — a group of business leaders in the International District — came together in 1999 with the hope of completing two traditional Chinese gates to serve as landmarks in Chinatown. Their goal was to improve not only the aesthetic of the area, but also to promote the prominence and contribution of the Chinese community in Seattle.
After nearly a decade of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars of fundraising, construction of the first gate, which is similar to ones in Vancouver, B.C., San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Yokohama, Japan, and southern China, began in 2006 and was completed in 2008 on South King Street near Fifth Avenue South. At that time, they raised money from English and non-English speaking residents and the foundation received help from the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, South Downtown Foundation, City of Seattle, King County, MulvannyG2 Architecture, and other groups.
“We are planning to build the second Chinese Gate, but no location has been decided yet,” said Tuck Eng, president of the Historic China Gate Foundation. “But we are thinking Eighth Avenue South and South King Street would be a good location, because it is in line with the first gate and the east entrance to Chinatown.” Eng said the foundation originally planned to build the second gate at 12th Avenue, but noticed that the location might infringe on the Vietnamese community’s boundary.
The Historic China Gate Foundation already has some funds for building the second gate, but not enough to complete it. It cost about $950,000 to build the first gate, and the group expects the next one to cost $800,000.
The foundation still continues to fundraise to maintain the first gate, which costs about $8,000 each year for insurance, city street permits, electricity, and pressure washing. The city had refused to accept the gate as a gift due to the liability and maintenance costs.
“We are hoping to start building the second Chinese Gate whenever the economy improves, like in two or three years from now, but there is another big problem,” said Eng. “The Historic China Gate Foundation must get approvals from adjacent property owners.” Eng said it was taking a long time to get those approvals.
“We need to prove and convince them that the gate does not obstruct or interfere with their operation, but is very beneficial to their property,” said Eng. (end)
Marino Saito can be reached at email@example.com.